In the 15th century, the word respair meant “to have hope again.” Although this word fell out of use, it’s among dozens collected in a new book of soothing vocabulary for troubled times. Plus, baseball slang: If a batter doesn’t pour the pine,” an outfielder may snag a can of corn, or “an easily caught fly ball.” And the 1960s TV show “Laugh-In” spawned lots of catchphrases, such as Sock it to me and You bet your sweet bippy. Don’t know them? Well, Look that up in your Funk & Wagnalls! Plus tiffin, worldcraft, cultellation, backslash vs. forward slash, come-heres, bi-weekly, a witty word game that’s much ado about nothing, and more.

This episode first aired November 14, 2020.

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 1930s Baseball Slang
Baseball slang collected during the 1930s includes fishing trip for “taking a swing at a bad ball,” pour the pine for “to hit a good ball solidly,” and the derisive term collisions for “college players,”, that is, “collegians.”

 Laugh-In Catch Phrases
You bet your sweet bippy! meaning “Definitely!” comes from a large cache of catchphrases from the TV variety series Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, which was wildly popular in the late 1960s. The bippy in this case was a euphemism for “butt.” Other phrases made famous on Laugh-In included Look that up in your Funk & Wagnalls and Sock it to me!, the last of which was famously uttered on the show in a cameo by President Richard M. Nixon. Note: In this segment, we mistakenly credit Laugh-In with popularizing “the Devil made me do it.” That phrase was actually popularized by comedian Flip Wilson in his own acts and television shows via his character “Geraldine.”

 A Can of Corn in Baseball
A longtime baseball umpire wonders why the slang phrase can of corn refers to “an easily caught pop fly ball.” Another term for “a high fly ball” is rainmaker, suggesting that the ball goes up so far that it’s capable of causing a cloudburst.

 A Horse-Collar Score
In sports slang, a horse-collar is “a score of zero,” and to horse-collar an opponent is “to hold them scoreless.”

 Much Ado About Nothing Brain Teaser
Quiz John Chaneski’s brain teaser this week is much ado about nothing. For example, a TV series was originally pitched as a sitcom about how a comedian gets his material, but later an in-joke led people to believe the show was about nothing. Which show is it?

 What’s the Actual Meaning of “Bimonthly”?
At a Seattle, Washington, tech company, Vivian finds that she and her fellow employees are continually vexed by this question: Does bimonthly mean “once every two weeks” or “once every two months”?

 Even More Favorite Bookstore Names
Following our conversation about listeners’ favorite independent bookstore names, a Massachusetts listener shares hers: Yellow Umbrella Books in Chatham, Massachusetts.

 A “Come-Here” in Virginia
In southeastern Virginia, a come-here is “an outsider” or “someone who recently moved to the area.”

 Getting Backslash Mixed Up With Forward Slash
Mark from Chicago, Illinois, wonders: Why do some people use the term backslash to refer to a forward slash when giving a website address? Terms for that mark in other contexts are virgule, from the Latin for “twig,” and solidus.

 Respair, A Return to Hope
As a noun, respair means “the return of hope after a period of despair.” As a verb, respair means “to have hope again.” Although both forms are rare and obsolete, they seem ripe for reviving. Respair is among dozens of uplifting terms collected in Paul Anthony Jones’s new book The Cabinet of Calm: Soothing Words for Troubled Times. (Bookshop|Amazon) Other heartening words include meliorism, “the belief that the world, or society, may be improved and suffering alleviated through rightly directed human effort,” and cultellation, originally a surveyors’ term, which denotes “the solution of a problem by dealing with it piecemeal,” from Latin cultellus, meaning “knife.”

 Someone WHo is Always to Blame
Two close friends from Richmond, Kentucky, call to share their hilarious dispute about how to correctly describe the one of them who’s always to blame for something. Is she the fault default or the default fault?

 Worldcraft, One’s Amassed Wisdom
The Cabinet of Calm: Soothing Words for Troubled Times (Bookshop|Amazon) includes the term worldcraft, meaning “the unique skills, wisdom and experience that an older person has amassed in their lifetime.”

 Tiffin Meal
Nick from San Antonio, Texas, says his father used to use the word tiffin to denote a meal or snack made of leftovers. It’s a word borrowed from Indian English which was itself borrowed from the English verb tiff, which means “to eat or to drink, or to drink slowly.”

This episode is hosted by Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett, and produced by Stefanie Levine.

Photo by Ayan Khasnabis. Used and modified under a Creative Commons license.

Book Mentioned in the Broadcast

The Cabinet of Calm: Soothing Words for Troubled Times by Paul Anthony Jones’s (Bookshop|Amazon)

Music Used in the Broadcast

Title Artist Album Label
Adonai Ikebe Shakedown Kings Left Behind Colemine Records
Sugar Stanley Turrentine Sugar CTI
Pushin’ Off Magic in Threes Magic in Threes GED Soul
So What George Benson Beyond The Blue Horizon CTI
Trinity Way Magic in Threes Magic in Threes GED Soul
I’ll Never Love Again Kelly Finnegan The Tales People Tell Colemine Records
Volcano Vapes Sure Fire Soul Ensemble Out On The Coast Colemine Records

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